by Doreen Taylor,
A drive through the Kyrenian Mountain Range is a balm to a troubled soul. Here, one feels that one is high above the human race.
The journey to the Kyrenian Mountain Range begins east of Kyrenia, through countryside undulating with small hills covered in scrub and low-lying vegetation. The area is sparsely populated, on the coast, and promised a good journey out. Unexpectedly, dotted around this coastal area are developments of villas and luxury apartments, which actually spoil a perfect panorama. Many of these new-builds are abandoned, unfinished due to the economic down-turn. They are ugly, grey skeletal structures whose dark walls and empty, forlorn windows must have saddened the the occasional occupants of a few of the completed villas who had moved in before the credit crunch stung. Yet, in between these development complexes, the views of the sea and the mountains ahead and the general terrain of this undulating countryside are breathtakingly beautiful.
As the road becomes steeper, the developments fade and are replaced by pine forest, ground shrubs and bushes, lending an exotic vista to a backdrop of blue sky and, further up the mountains, a tantalizing mist descending down over the craggy tops. Climbing into the enigmatic rock structures and luscious vegetation, the herbaceous smells of the pine forest (lovage is a particular scent to be appreciated here) and the promise of the experience at the top of the mountains are awesome. The entire perception inspires images of Gothic stories, biblical stories and dreams of atonement with the cosmos.
A Different World
As the mist thickens, a traveler might feel that they are cocooned in a parallel paradise far above the commercialism and hedonism of the tourist trade on the coast below. The world that the traveled sojourns through in these mountains, high above the rest of a sweltering, sunburnt humanity, is a bubble of peace and tranquility.
A Byzantine Discovery
As the road climbs further and further, one eventually finds a Byzantine church – the Antiphonitis Church, originally a monastery from a bygone era – closed, empty and sleeping in the misty sunshine of the mountain range. Built of the pale pink sandstone of the mountains and complete with its typical dome, it can only belong to the Byzantine heritage. In the distance, goats can be heard bleating, their collar bells can be heard tinkling above the silence that is 920m above sea level. Not one goat can be seen.
Antiphonitis Church used to be the center of an influential monastery. Dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the church was built in the 7th century. It lies 8km south of Esentepe village, a mountain village completely devoid of tourism, its inhabitants sitting in the doorways of their homes enjoying the sun in an afternoon in May. Children were playing, grandmothers were dozing and the village was dusty in the early summer heat. Truly a day out to remember.
A Northern Cypriot Sojourn IV to follow.